Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Tupperware Dilemma

When I attended the Weston A. Price Foundation Conference last year in Philadelphia, I was absolutely overwhelmed with information. I knew I could not change everything in my kitchen overnight. I didn't have the money. But over the last year, I've made quite a few changes as I learned more and figured out more.

Now, I'm thinking about food storage more and more. Most of the stuff I make in large batches is stored in glass jars. My husband is amazed at how many jars I've managed to accumulate. There are rows and rows of glass jars in my pantry and there are a bunch of them in my deep freezer as well. And many things are stored in glass in the refrigerator as well.

But, I've not yet gotten rid of all of my plastic ware.

I pack my own lunch each day before I head off to work. I've even started packing on days I have court (my job involves testifying in court once or twice a week). It was a treat for me to eat in a restaurant on a court day, but I noticed that two to three days later, my face would break out and my gut would become unhappy again. When I miraculously went a whole month without a court day (and thus, no restaurant food), I had a whole month with no skin breakouts or bowel issues. Hmmm.

But back to the plastic packaging. Putting liquids like raw milk or kombucha into pint jars makes sense. But what do I do about the meat, fermented veggies and fruit? Too many jars in a lunch box makes for a very heavy lunch box and one that makes loud clanking noises! So, I have been using small plastic ware containers to carry my food to work.

I'm not a scientist but I'm concerned that some of the acids in my food, even without heating, are causing some of the plastics to leach into my food. Not good. We do have a good set up at work now with a two burner electric stove top and a toaster oven, a full sized refrigerator. My co-workers use the microwave a lot but I avoid it. I brought in a stainless steel sauce pan and a small stainless steel tray for the toaster oven.

But now, I'm looking for a way to transport and store my lunch that is affordable and not overly heavy. I'm going to experiment with some waxed paper and keep an eye out for stainless steel containers.

If anyone can recommend something let me know.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Clutter, Chaos and Creativity

I live in an older home. It was built around 1910. I should say it was assembled because according to what we have been able to figure out since moving in over 20 years ago, the original structure had two rooms up and two rooms down. It has a front porch across the front of the house. It was a cute, tiny house. There was no indoor plumbing and the staircase was in the middle of the house. Not long after that, an additional two rooms were added at the back of the house. The rooms were stacked one above the over and a porch was added to the side. We think these rooms came along as this young farming family grew.

Then, a shed from another, older home, that had burned down, was loaded up on skids and dragged over. It was attached to the main house via the side porch. A third porch was added to the back of the house. It had a concrete floor like the other two porches. This shed was turned into the summer kitchen.

When I moved here in August of 1989, there was no front door. A pieced of plywood covered the entrance. There were pieces of an wood cook stove scattered about the summer kitchen, but there was not enough left of it to re-assemble it and make something that worked. At some point in the 1960s someone had installed a bathroom under the stairs which had been moved to one side of the house. The two back porches had been enclosed and the supporting wall had been removed. The roof had started to sag at that point and other than putting in front door, we immediately re-enforced the foundation and put in a pole to get the ceiling back into place.

Over the course of the last 20 years, we have ripped out cloth wiring, installed new plumbing, torn out rotten plaster, repaired termite damage, rebuilt part of the foundation, replaced all 42 windows and put on vinyl siding, enclosed half of the front porch and repaired the rest. We repaired the 75 year tin roof as best we could because we could not afford to replace it. The back porch became our laundry room. We have one room left to paint and that is the master bedroom. The whole house needs to be repainted and some of the floors we laid down need to be replaced (we used the cheap linoleum at the time and it's now wearing out).

This house has been a lot of work. I love that we can now open all the windows and let the prevailing breeze through and, except when temperatures exceed 90 with high humidity, the house stays pretty cool.

I also love my kitchen. Nothing is built in. All of the cabinets and counters and tables and appliances can be removed. The only fixture is the sink and I kept the giant ceramic sink that came with the house. I have my eye on a new kitchen faucet, but that is on my wish list. The water heater is in the kitchen. It was there when I moved in. Anticipating that it would probably die not long after we moved in, as it is probably older than I am (50+), we installed pipe to the laundry room and put a cap on the end. It's still doing a nice job of heating our water and as a result, I still do laundry with cold water. But eventually, it will die and we will install a new, energy efficient model in the laundry room and run the hot water from there to the rest of the house.

But back to the kitchen. Here is my kitchen table. When the boys were home, it sat squarely in the middle of the room and we all sat around it for meals. After the boys moved out on their own, I re-oriented the thing and now use it as extra counter space. 

So what is all that stuff? Under the table is my stock pot and 60 pound bucket of honey. On top is a batch of sour dough starter, some butter, kefir, a bowl of mixed crispy nuts with organic raisins, a bunch of parsley from my garden, some local honey with the comb in, the large glass jar has a little bit of sprouted and freshly ground rye flour. The paper bag contains a partly eaten loaf of sourdough rye bread. On that table is also a jar of Kumbucha and a jar of some fermenting veggies.

My husband thinks my kitchen is in constant chaos. I prefer to think of it as a catalyst for creativity.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Feasting with Non-Believers

I'm not talking about the religious issues that sometimes happen in large, extended families like mine, but the food issues. We are a family of five kids with six grandkids. Four of us were in town for the holiday. Mom and Dad were not up to traveling and opted not to join us this year.

Let me give you a rundown of the various challenges we face as a small clan eating together.:

I'm allergic to soy. I'm also very overweight unlike the rest of my family, most of whom are rather thin. I also battle depression from time to time. One son is allergic to lemons. Another son of mine is allergic to nuts (all nuts both peanut and tree nut). For a while I blamed myself for their problems, but I've come to realize that when they were little, all I knew was the craziness spouted by the government. We ate low fat everything and super processed everything. I got fat, and we all developed allergies and gut problems. The boys have moved away from home and as young men who work at Pizza Hut for a living, their diets, quite frankly, are a little frightening. I send them real food from time to time. I'm giving them both a two pound block of butter for Christmas along with pastured pork, beef, and eggs and maybe a couple of pastured chickens. My husband developed several blockages in his heart veins years before we met. Just after we were married, a stent was installed and he was put on statins. I will talk about his medical adventures following his start on WAP in future entries.

My baby sister's daughter is on the GAPS diet to help address her autism (she was adopted at 6 months old from the former Soviet Union and arrived with digestive problems) and to help her daughter along, she has put her whole family on a modified Gaps diet. This is sister is very thin, as is her son. Her husband and daughter were struggling with weight until they went on GAPS and they each lost a lot of weight and her daughter grew several inches.Her husband has also struggled with depression.

My sister-in-law, the Food Nazi, has a lifelong allergy to corn and is a longtime follower of Weight Watchers so most of her food is soy based. She also works in the food industry and will not eat anything that is preserved in cans at home or fermented unless it was done in commercial building. She is thin. Her daughters are all thin. My brother battles his weight constantly but she claims it is because he "cheats" and eats junk when he is working. He was very thin when he was younger. We call her the Food Nazi, because she cleans everything, including her hands and some foods with bleach water. She's freaky about it.

My other brother is married to a native of China. He suffered from terrible gut problems his whole life and was painfully thin. He married late in life but I believe she saved his life. She began feeding him fermented foods, took him off of all dairy products and they eat made-from-scratch soup every single day (sometimes a couple of times a day). She feeds him no bread at all. I'm thinking she has got him on something as close to GAPS as possible without a handbook. He reports he has no more problems with his guts except when he eats an occasional pizza, so they are avoiding that as much as possible (I'm thinking he has Celiac's Disease). She is an excellent cook and it's fun to look into her cupboards as everything is labeled in Chinese and she has lots of mysterious and wonderful mushrooms, dried vegetables and other goodies in there. Her refrigerator is filled with fresh vegetables and her table is decorated with a variety of fresh fruits like clementines, pineapples and bartlett pears. I was deeply impressed to find that she has a couple of little Buddha statues each of whom had a perfect, fresh apple and a pretty stone bead bracelet nearby.

Middle sister lives in Colorado and did not make it out this year.

This year, despite everyone knowing everyone's allergies, there was a lot of food that was not consumed. The Food Nazi put margarine in everything she cooked and even put lemon in the sweet potatoes. She prepared the gravy, sweet potatoes and the stuffing. She will not let us stuff the turkey itself because she is an FDA food freak and believes we will all die of salmonella poisoning if we eat a turkey with stuffing in it. He daughter prepared the pies and while they got rave reviews, I could not eat them due to the crust being prepared iwth margarine.

I fixed the green bean casserole using scratch mushroom gravy which started with a beef bone broth, organic green beans and onion rings fried in pastured pig leaf lard. It was completely gluten free as well because I used tapioca flour for the thickeners and the onion breading. I also made deviled eggs using mayonaise I made using a good quality olive oil and pastured eggs. I did use store bought capers as part of the stuffing. I also made a pickle tray with gluten free crackers, homemade yogurt cheese from raw milk, a variety of ferments and homemade pickles both sour and bread and butter pickles. I also made a liver pate.

My sister with the Gaps family, brought a lovely salad, a fruit salad with coconut and put the chopped pecan crispy nuts on the side (thank you!). She also brought gluten free rolls she made. They were good but contained nuts, so one son could not eat them.

The turkey was prepared by my brother and his wife. She is from China and so this whole Thanksgiving thing is quite amazing to her. They did a great job with this large bird and everyone enjoyed it. Food Nazi managed to make the carcass disappear into the trash before Gaps mom or I could get to it and so all that wonderful boney goodness was lost.

I suggested to Gaps mom that next year I will host and she and I will prepared everything. Food Nazi can bring her own food if she wants, but the rest of us need something to eat that is safe.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Soaked Granola

Eating real food on a budget is a real challenge for a lot of families. Moving into this world of real food is challenging to do all at one time and it helps to do things one step at a time as you can afford it. One of the first things I did was replace my aluminum and teflon coated cookware with stainless steel cookware. I already had a lot of cast iron pans acquired over the course of a decade. I found a wonderful glass bowl collection at Target once. It was on sale and I splurged. Little by little, I've changed out my cooking utensils to get rid of the plastic.

I found over the course of about 3 months that NOT buying junk like breakfast cereal, snack cakes, chips, candy and most commercial bread; saved enough money for me to make one or two LARGE bulk purchases each month that last me for 6 or more months. For example, I bought a 50 pound bag of organic wheat berries and another 50 pound bag of organic rye berries for about $1.27 a pound. I soak the grains and spout then dry them, grind them in a grain grinder and make my own sprouted flours. A cup of raw wheat makes about 2 cups of flour. I can make a loaf of bread with about 3 1/2 cups. There are a lot of cups of wheat in a 50 pound bag. I store them in galvanized tins in an unheated and unused bedroom. I sprinkle grain with food grade Diatomaceous earth to keep the weavils out. Basically, I'm using about 50 cents of grain to make a loaf of bread. I also purchase yeast in bulk and keep it in the freezer.

Equipment is expensive, but when cared for properly. lasts for many years. I could not do this without my very large deep freezer. I keep it set below zero and I can keep foods for a very, very long time. It does not auto defrost, so I have to do that manually once a year or so, but that's an easy job. The grain grinder and my table top electric mixer are very important. I also have a meat grinder attachment for my electric mixer and a food processor and stick blender. I do not have a microwave, or a toaster.

Some basic foods like coconut oil, nuts, sea salt, and meat are much cheaper purchased in bulk. It's just a little scary to anticipate and budget for 1/2 beef, for example when you know you will be paying $1000 or more in a lump sum. But you are purchasing a year's worth of beef at one time. Sit down and really figure out what you are paying when you buy a year's worth of meat in incremental bits. I bet it will be more. What's nice about making that large bulk purchase of pastured beef from a local farmer is that you can very specifically dictate how you want your cuts done, how much of it is going to be ground beef, you get the organs. If you really get the opportunity to work out details, you can also ask for the hide -- if you have a use for it.

Start small and go for a 1/2 lamb. Then try 1/2 a hog. Find someone with pastured chickens and buy 6 of them. My husband fishes, but he does not hunt; but I know hunters and most years they will bring me a whole deer if I pay for the tag. You see why I need a large freezer.

If I could talk my husband into it, I would buy two of them and have one for meat and one for vegetables, fruit and other home prepared foods like broth.

But let me share my recipe for CHEAP healthy granola. Buy all the ingredients in bulk.

Soaked Granola

2 cups of organic raw oatmeal
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups of warm water

1/4 cup of dried fruit (I like organic raisins or cherries)
1/2 cup of crispy nuts (pecans or walnuts)
1/2 cup of crispy pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Put the oatmeal in a large glass bowl, stir the sea salt into the warm water until dissolved. Pour liquid over the oatmeal. Stir gently until all the oatmeal is submerged. Cover the bowl with a towel and put on the counter overnight.

In the morning drain the oatmeal through a colander and rinse. Dump back in the bowl. Heat coconut oil and maple syrup in a sauce pan until blended and the oil is melted. Pour oil and syrup mixture over the oats and stir a couple of times. Spread the wet oatmeal out onto a jelly roll pan (a cookie sheet with edges). Put in the oven and set the temperature to just below warm. Leave for 8 hours. I put it in before I go to work and take it out when I get home. Once dried it will be crispy. Break it up and put it into a dry bowl. Add the fruit, nuts and seeds and coconut flakes. Stir. Store in quart jars. Eat with yogurt, kefir or raw milk.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Kefir Experiments Continue

I made a pint with the kefir starter and some raw milk. I put it out on the table overnight and then chilled it. I found it quite nice but not very bubbly when I drank some of it. I also did not find any grains. I decided that perhaps I needed to wait longer than overnight (you think?). I put the remaining 1/3rd cup into a clean pint jar and added 1/3 cup of fresh raw milk and again left it out over night. I will call this Jar #1. Then I added another 1/3rd cup of milk and again left it out overnight.

This time, it separated. So I stirred it gently with a wooden spoon, poured half into a second pint jar (Jar #2) and added fresh raw milk to both. Both went into the frig.

The next day, I very carefully poured all the soured milk off the top of Jar #2 into a clean container and poured the remainder into a small jelly jar and added 1/4 cup of milk. This is Jar #3. The jelly jar was left out on the counter for two days without disturbance, then I added a little more milk to it and put it in the frig.

All the jars remained refrigerated for four days undisturbed.

This morning, I decided to check things out and see what I had.

Jar #1 was fizzy and had a very mild sour smell and flavor.
Jar #2 was still separating into solids and whey and seemed more sour in odor. I have not tasted it.
Jar #3 actually had lumps that look like kefir grains!

So, put my new grains in their own little pint jar, topped it off with fresh milk and will leave it out until this evening and refrigerate it. I poured myself a small jelly glass of Jar #1 and topped it up and will leave it out at room temp until dinner time today.

I added a teaspoon of raw honey to the glass I had poured and stirred and stirred. I finally licked the remaining honey off the spoon and drank the kefir. Ambrosia.

I now understand the Biblical references to "The Land of Milk and Honey." Wow!

With this heady treat in my tummy, I went on to jar up one crock of sauerkraut, started a batch of sourdough starter for my sister, and re-arranged my pantry shelves and sorted out the frig to make room for the newly jarred kraut.

The Chocolate Fix

I have found that over the course of the last year, as I'm working my way further and further from processed foods and eating more healthy food; my craving for sugary treats like cookies and cake has diminished quite a bit. What has taken longer to lose is an occasional, overwhelming desire for chocolate candy. What has kept that in check is the challenge of finding a chocolate candy that does not contain soy.

There are a few. One that I have found is made by Rapunzel. They make an Organic Dark Chocolate bar that is soy free. It does contain organic raw cane sugar, organic cocoa beans, organic cocoa butter, and organic vanilla. One square will usually satisfy me for a week or more. The last bar I purchased survived on my kitchen counter for well over 3 months before we finally finished it off with a glass of red wine.

Recently, however, my local source for all things healthy is a tiny health food store in Callao, VA that just recently opened. It's called The Health Nut. They now have a web site. It is run by a delightful couple who reclaimed their health by learning to eat healthy food. He is a master smoothie maker and they have a little smoothie bar set up at the back of the shop. It's a great place for me to pop in on my way home from work and pick up things I need for dinner. She will also order special things for me when I ask. She'll get a half dozen of whatever I ordered and, so far, has found there is a market for the odd things I have requested - like walnut oil.

Anyway, as part of their Grand Opening Ceremonies, they had some samples of dishes made from items available in their shop. One of those things was the most awesome, sugar free, organic chocolate fix I've tasted yet. She gave me permission to share the recipe here:

Chocolate Cherry Truffles
1 cup of dehydrated organic bing cherries
1 cup of crisy nuts (I used half pecans and half almonds)
2 tablespoons of good quality raw coconut oil (it should be solid at room temp)
4 tablespoons of Terr Amazon Organic Cocao Powder. Put 2 tablespoons aside for rolling later.

Put the cherries in your food processor. Give it a couple of pulses. Add the nuts. Give it a couple of more pulses. Add the coconut oil and 2 tablespoons of the cocoa powder. Hold the pulse button down for a bit and let it start to incorporate together. Scrap down the sides and pulse a little more until it forms into a ball (or blobs up on the sides like mine did). Put the whole mass in a small glass bowl -- you should have about 2 cups - cover and put in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, put the last two tablespoons of cocoa powder on a plate. Break off little hunks of the cherry nut mixture and roll into small balls -- about marble sized. Roll the balls in the cocoa powder. I layered them in tupperware between sheets of waxed paper. Keep refrigerated. Eat as needed.

Even my husband, the sugar fiend, loved these and after eating just one told me I was going to have to make more.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Next Generation

My youngest grand-daughter (really a step grand-daughter, but who's counting?) is coming to visit us this weekend. Ken will pick her up after school and bring her up to spend the weekend.

I have several activities planned including weaving a scarf (or something) on the rigid heddle loom for Friday evening and we might make some healthy cookies or macaroons .. I think we might get Poppop to get out the Wii for a couple of games.  I've already put a pastured chicken into the crock-pot with organic veggies including locally grown carrots, turnips, onions and a couple of potatoes. I need to avoid eating the potatoes as I'm trying to cut down on my carbs, but Ken loves them and feels a meal is not complete without them. He, unlike me, does not need to lose much (if any) weight. But he is one of those odd people who is perfectly happy eating only one meal a day. By the time he gets to it, he's really hungry and needs the carbs.

Saturday we plan to go pet a cow and perhaps see a pig or two. Then it's home to show her how to make yogurt so she can eat some on Sunday morning on some homemade soaked granola or soaked oatmeal or perhaps farm fresh eggs. I need to get a new sour dough batch going, so I will show her how to make a starter and will have to make her some bread from it at some point.

I'm taking some pickles down to Lively to a new friend from whom I'm getting pork in a couple of weeks. I've gone in with my sister and ordered half a hog. We are about done with the 1/2 lamb we got this summer and I believe we are out of beef for the most part (other than some bones). I plan to order 1/2 beef for this Spring. And next year I'm definitely going to get a whole lamb. Mom and my sister each want a 1/2 lamb, so that will be two whole animals from my favorite source for pastured lamb. 

One batch of sauerkraut is ready to be jarred. I need to find some more pint jars before I start, however, so will stop at the hardware store on my way home today. 

For my breakfast this morning, I'm drinking a cup of home made chicken bone broth with a tablespoon of coconut oil melted into it. I managed to burn my tongue pretty well on it first thing, but I'm enjoying it now. I'm only about 1/2 through the serving and already feeling satisfied, so I may just take it to work with me for later. I've started reading Eat Fat, Lose Fat and I can see it is really coconut oil heavy, so I will need to find an affordable source for a bulk purchase.

I've also cut down on my coffee quite a bit. I had two cups yesterday and a cup of tea and the rest of the day I drank water or decaffeinated tea. Today I had one cup of coffee and a large cup of tea (like a cup and a half) and plan to go fully decaffeinated the rest of the day. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Next Step

For the last year, I have been working to replace processed foods with whole, healthy, natural foods. I am getting closer to that goal every day. But I find that I'm still having intermittent bouts of bloating and aching joints and a welts that appear on my face. I'm sure that it's an allergic reaction and I'm pretty sure it's something I'm eating. It's just too much like a toxic reaction to be a coincident.

The fact is, there are still some unhealthy things I am eating that I need to eliminate:
  • Coffee (or caffeine)
  • Artificial sweetening (it goes into coffee)
  • Too many grain based carbs
  • Too many sweets (even healthy ones like maple syrup and honey)
I find I also eat too much at one sitting. I don't realize my stomach is uncomfortably full until I get up and walk away from the table. 

I also have times when I cheat and do reach out and grab that piece of bundt cake that someone kindly brought into the office to share instead of walking away or eating a piece of fruit or another bite of meat.

I feel like I've done a good job of eliminating soy from my diet and do feel much better having done that. I can tell almost immediately when I've accidently injested it. The reaction is in my face, my hands (swelling), my head (headache), belly (bloating with gas and pain). I seem to also have a reaction in my face.

I also have facial skin reactions to stress and heat. When I get very, very hot my legs, ankles and feet and hands also swell up badly. The swelling and facial rash make me wonder about Lupus sometimes, but I'm thinking even if it is Lupus, there's not much doctors can do with that other than steroids and I'm just not willing to accept the side effects. I'd rather control it with diet, very controlled exposure to heat and sun and mild to moderate exercise.

So, back to the question of what goes next: Grains (especially wheat) or by beloved coffee?

If coffee: Should I drop coffee and go to tea for a while and then get off the tea or just suffer the 10 days of caffeine withdrawals and get on with my life?

If grains: Do I eliminate all of them at one time and deal with my husband who cannot live without his bread, cookies, pies and cakes (not to mention my cravings for such things), or should I just eliminate one grain (like wheat) and see how I do on just rye or oats or some other grain like barley? Is the problem gluten or is it an actually allergy to one thing, like wheat?

If sugars: These are mad carbohydrate issues for me. I'm moving slowly in this direction now with the elimination of white sugar (other than what goes into the kombucha) but I'm back to drinking alcoholic beverages which I know is not good for me and are definitely an addiction. Within a month of going back on wine, I went from one glass a night to finishing a regular sized bottle to buying a box and making that last about three days (when there is actually about 4 bottles worth in that box). So that has to go. I do better with beer and am pretty content with just one can/bottle for an evening. But beer has both the alcohol and the grain issue.  Can I separate alcohol from the sugars and carbs? I dunno?

I don't want to do all at once. I'll admit it. I'm a wimp when it comes to self inflicted suffering. Both of these are addiction issues and I fear I will break down and throw in the towel on everything if I try to break all the bad habits at one time.

The coffee is easier. I can substitute for a while with various teas and gradually move from caffeinated to caffeine free teas. I think a lot of the draw of the coffee is that hot beverage in my hand.

So, starting tomorrow (since I've already had a cup of coffee... two actually) this morning, I will leave my beloved coffee and move to tea. I can do that for a couple of weeks I think and then wean myself off of the tea... since I really don't much care for tea.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Kefir, oh kefir

I'm trying to make my own kefir from a starter.

And I'm not sure if I'm doing it correctly or not. I'm not seeing what I thought I would see, which is little kefir grains. But I have a nicely soured milk which is not bad to drink and which I am probably going to use for buttermilk salad dressing.

And while it seems like a nice product, this is not like the kefir I'm familiar with. Granted, that kefir, while still active in the bottle, is from a commercial source and clearly contains some sweetener, even if it is in the form of a fruit juice.

I would like to find a source (friend) with some grains to share.

Ah, the on-going adventures of living food... at least I know what I have with mead, yogurt and fermented veggies.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Getting established

I'm delighted and amazed at the underworld of raw foods. But it's frustrating to me that I must act like I'm trying to buy illegal drugs or smuggle laundered money just to feed myself and my family healthy food.

Let me tell you the story of my first real milk purchase without naming names or giving too many details about who and where. What I have done and they have done, is, in fact, illegal in Virginia.

After returning from WAP Foundation Conference in Philly last year, I went on a quest to find a source for real, raw milk with a feasible price tag and within a reasonable driving distance from my home. The price of gas, being as high as it is, must be factored into the cost of everything now. At one of the Farmer's Markets I had met a lady who was selling pastured beef. I love her beef and I knew her prices were very good. When I visited her farm not long after my trip to Philly, I asked if she knew of anyone selling raw milk. She sent me home with a quart of her own goat's milk, which was very good, but not what I was looking for and I knew I would also need and want larger quantities. I did some internet research and found some folks who were doing goat shares and cow shares, but the driving was clearly going to be overwhelming. In one case, the prices were just off the chart.

I did some research and some math to figure out what it actually costs to raise a dairy cow, maintain optimum pastures, buy hay for winter feeding, milk it for five to seven years, breed her regularly, deal with down time before and after the calf is born and maintain shelters, supplies and fencing.  The initial investment is huge unless you already have land and fencing and a shelter of some sort on hand. Ignoring that just for the sake of argument, your cow is going to run you somewhere around $1,000. Equipment like milk pails, halters, etc, aren't too much until you invest in machinery. Hand milking, while not as efficient, is far less expensive. And it must be done every single day.

And dairy cows don't do daylight savings. If you milk at 6 a..m. all summer, you will be milking at 5 a.m. all winter. There are no sick days, snow days or family vacations when your girl is in milk. She just won't release the milk for strangers to come in who are "cow sitting". And if she doesn't let the milk out, she will suffer terribly. Just ask any mother who has breastfed a child. When that baby balks, or she is late getting home to nurse, she is in pain!

Failing to keep a regular milking schedule and working with the cow to make sure she has released all of her milk can also lead to mastitis and if that doesn't kill her outright, it can damage a quarter of her udder to the point she cannot produce milk there again.

It requires dedication, faith and a whole lot of work to raise a milking cow. But everyone I've met who does it (even the commercial guys) can't imagine not doing it. They love these animals. There is a bond.

So what is real milk worth? Worth more than I can actually afford. But I don't think I can afford not to have it.

When I drink real milk I do not get indigestion. I feel satisfied. I don't have gut problems. And the stuff is just good! When I drink pasteurized and homogenized milk (the only milk I can legally purchase in Virginia), I have terrible stomach aches, indigestion and it simply does not satisfy. As a compromise, I can culture store bought organic milk and make yogurt (which I can eat and water down to drink), but I've had no luck making kefir or buttermilk with the ultrapasturized, homogenized crap sold for milk in the stores.

Anyway, when I first came home I did find someone who was willing to share some of milk but the milk was not from a pastured cow. It was a cow who was fed commercial feed, was milked twice a day and who did not give a lot of cream.

I learned from this person that milk in dairy operations is taken to a creamery every other day or so, the cream is separated from the milk and both are pasteurized. Some of the cream is them put back into the milk. If they want whole milk, they put back in enough cream to bring the cream level up to 3%. Mind you, when it comes out of the cow, it's about 5% cream. Two percent milk is 2% cream per in the milk gallon and skim is just the milk liquid without the cream. Skimmed is about as close to whey as you get without actually souring or culturing the milk. Unfortunately, pasteurizing destroys the enzymes in real milk that makes it possible for humans to digest the milk easily without breaking down the lactose using a culture. Pasteurizing also destroys real milk's natural ability to clabber or sour without molding. If your store bought pasteurized milk has past its expiration date, there is a good chance it has molded and become contaminated with outside bacteria that make it dangerous to drink. Real milk will eventually reach a point of being undrinkable, but even with a little souring, it's still perfectly safe. And even if you don't want to drink this sour milk, you can at least still cook with real sour milk.

This cow owner was very nervous about sharing the milk, although the price was very low, and feared that the government would come and shut down the operation. This person was very kind for several months, however, and let me get milk for my animals. I did not like making this person nervous, so I looked elsewhere for milk.

So, via another friend, I was referred to someone whose daughter had a Jersey cow who had just had a calf. I was at the point of believing I would need to find a way to raise a cow myself in order to have really fresh, wholesome real milk. I thought I could talk to her about how to do this on a shoe string budget. What I did learn is that I will really need about 3 acres of land in decent pasture and a shelter of some sort, but I already have electric fencing and cows can live quite well with sheep. Since I already have sheep and an electric fence, that will enclose an acre, I could do this if I could find three acres of  land and just move the fence every day or ever other day.

The owner of said cow, however,  does not want to sell the baby, but she has been willing to share the milk with me.

I still want a cow of my own and land to raise her on.

I love my little sheep and do not intend to eat them, but I have found a source for pastured lamb meat which I will tell you about later. I have also now found a source for pastured pigs and pastured beef. My sister and I plan to go in together to purchase half a hog. I plan to purchase another lamb. And I also plan to purchase half a steer for beef.

As of this weekend, I may have found a source for pastured chickens and another source for eggs. So, after a year of searching, researching and making friends; I think I may finally have everything together. Now to just keep it affordable.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Big changes, small changes

So, what did I learn at the Weston A. Price Conference? I learned that everything I had been eating to maintain my health and battle my weight problems was completely wrong. I found out that the main reason that I had skin problems, depression, aching joints, muscle spasms, massive fatty tumors in my gut, obesity and bowel problems was directly related to what I was and was not eating.

My whole life I had been told to eat less food. Eat no fat. Avoid meat. Eat whole grains. Eat soy.  Follow various diets including Weight Watchers and despite chronic pain, I had been told to exercise regularly and hard.

So, I've come to recognize that while I probably should eat less, I"m still probably in a transitional period that my body does not recognize as anything but a ploy. I eat even though I am no longer hungry because I've I have tortured myself for so many years with feast and famine, my body is anticipating a famine any day now. But I'm reaching awareness and I think this coming year I will begin to see myself get a better handle on this issue. Interestingly enough, I have not gained any weight. My cholesterol which was good before, has actually gotten even better. My blood pressure, always good,  remains the same and some of my other issues, like skin blemishes and aching joints, are starting to resolve themselves. 

What has changed?

I am eating whole foods now. I eat free range eggs at least three days a week, sometimes more. I eat real butter. I drink real milk that came out of a cow into a stainless steel pan, then was poured into jars. There are no middle men other than the gal who milks that cow. I eat meat and I eat the fat that came on the meat!  I eat whole fat yogurt, raw cheese and drink kefir and whole fat cultured buttermilk. I also drink something called Kombucha, Beet Kvass and sometimes the juice from homemade sauerkraut. I eat a lot more salt than I used to eat.

I have eliminated soy. Completely. I don't even eat commercially prepared bread anymore because it contains soy lecithin. Don't believe me? Go read the label on that loaf in your kitchen. It's in your breakfast cereal, and any baked goodies you may have purchased at the store. Soy oil is in your ketchup, the soup you bought and most definitely in your margarine. What's so bad about soy? We will cover that in future posts.


Just over a year ago, my dear friend, Angel talked me and another mutual friend into attending the Weston A. Price Conference in Philadelphia, PA. Angel is one of those people you never have time to visit with because she is constantly on the go and the opportunity to actually spend a few days with her, was more than tempting. She initially paid my way and so I really had nothing to lose. By the end of the four days, I had paid her back and we were laying plans to create some sort of scholarship fund for less financially able but deserving participants in our goal to recover our health from big agriculture, the government, and big business.

In the year since, I have to a much greater understanding of the difficulty of this undertaking but have noted significant improvements in various areas of my health. I also recognize I still have a long way to go before I actually reach my goals. But I am far more optimistic about getting there now.

One of the greatest challenges is rather ironic in that while I live in the country and should therefore have greater access to healthy food, finding it continues to be a challenge. But each goal reached is putting me in touch with opportunities to reach for the next goal.

I left Philly with several goals:

  1. Find a local, affordable source for raw milk.
  2. Find a local, affordable source of pastured beef.
  3. Figure out a way to get pastured chickens, and lamb, and eggs.
  4. Find a source for local, organic vegetables and fruit that were affordable.
I also wanted to find a way to raise my own milk cow, chickens and beef.

I have not met all of these goals. But I have reached some and am closing in on others. I have learned new ways of cooking and eating that seem to fly in the face of conventional medicine and mainstream opinion. And I've done it without a single sick day! Not one.

This blog is going to be about this adventure and the folks I've managed to drag along with me.